High life in little Parand. It's the yearly mourning ceremonials held in a quite frolicsome manner. It looks like stairstep children when all the local boys stand in line and hit their backs with these chains on handles. The older ones feel a little foolish, the ones in the middle are proud like hell and the smallest don't actually have a clue what this is about. Three consecutive nights the males march along the city streets and beat themselves not really keeping time with the kettledrums and the guy praying this one phrase hypnotisingly. This time it is for Imam Ali's murder some several hundred years ago. So they deliberately march through town towards the mosque to join for a kinda religious dinner.
Now it has become impossible to reach the house with the barred windows before the sun had dropped behind the horizon. Every day it is a little more ahead of us and tomorrow can be the day when no Paykan can be shot at sundown anymore. It is only October and already dark before 6pm and there is no resetting of the clock to have a grace period before the winter depression. But, well, if the sun is going to shine on for ninety-five percent of the days, maybe there is no such thing even known or planned for.
Being a pilot! The childhood dream of every boy, today for us it became true, well, that we don't get these corroded birds into the air wouldn't hurt our feelings. Did this ancient Boeing 727 with the plushy interior really belong to the Shah? What has the DC10 that is longing for the mountains been through? What stories all these cannibalized passenger and fighting planes could tell if their flight recorders wouldn't have been ripped out of their carcasses? Everything here is allowed to be touched, no-one gives a shit, you can walk through the bodies of these shabby jets to sit in the very front. Adventureland! The coolest would have been having a sheesha lingering on a carpet beside the Air Restaurant on the hill overlooking the valley. But they are closed, it's Ramadan.
Peng peng! Gespenstisch like a Western window blind works Old the Tehran Museum, as it called Mo. Nearly deserted, krächzende Schmalzmusik roars from the only juice shop, in which the old man waits in vain for guests. Are only missing the shrubs, which roll by the picture. Past at the Grand hotel, its windows in the wind knarren, against the dilettante manufactured streetcar car we creep the main street up. The view by the dusty windowpanes and open doors reveals hollow buildings also to through-separating fronts, which are kept inconspicuous by Stützgerüsten. Only the Perückenmacher sits in their salon, all other inhabitants probably moved away, further toward the west, where the sun dusty. The Schmalz seems to triefen from each Pappmaché joint. Which Schmachtfetzen was committed a crime here? One does not know it.
Sometimes you just rely on the local driver's promises and it's worth it, such as this friday when Mo brought us to an oldtimer museum he had mentioned the week before. We would have never found this nondescript entrance by the wide expressway since only a tiny sign showed the exit. Inside you see a fancy selection of cars from His Highness, the Shah and his family's fleet. About two thousand cars were said to be seized at the revolution. From the fourty-something on display we have a Mercer 500K, once belonging to the Führer and his gang, four of those were taken to Russia and this one - the best preserved - found its way to Shahs garage through an auction. Furthermore we have here a Pearce Arrow with golden bumpers, huge Rolls-Royces, plenty of Mercers, Ferraris and Porsches, only one of them all was driven in the last twenty years. Dozens more vehicles slumber in another building but we are not permitted to see them.
Solely the bronze boots stand in front of the White Palace as a remainder of the last Shah, Reza Mohammad Pahlavi, the rest was chopped off and died only one year after the escape and the revolution. The ragtag now can gaze at His Majesty's former belongings in the summer residence, the palaces - if not under renovation as half of them now - were turned into museums. We buy tickets for the military museum, the White and the Green Palace. In the first one we find especially firearms in abundance, from chromed Kalashnikovs - gifts from a guy named Saddam Hossein Tikriti, down to biro guns, hunting guns and weapons of warfare from all over the world and a cannon mounted on a camel. Outside we find tanks and more cannons.
In the Green and White Palace the pomp and splendor, glittering bedrooms, baroque furniture, pricey German porcelain. The best is the shady green park, so very relaxing to the eye and refreshing the air but we have to get back to our steppe village.
Cultural differences are often a source of misunderstanding. In Korea no-one means harm when drawing up his snot noisily. In Saudi Arabia it is not unusual to bypass the queue since the car is running outside. In the Philippines the waiter is called by a quite suggestive tune. Every culture has its peculiarities unfamiliar to strangers. In Iran, for instance, it is rather permissible to take photos of women unknown to you. Sometimes I cannot resist the temptation to act against my good intentions to respect foreign cultures, though.
Vastly overrated the printed traveller's bible calls our day trip destination, the large numbers of Iranians give a spit - how about us? We would speed over three-hundred kilometers along a delightless landscape to see it, would stand and sit in waiting lines to be finally drawn through Irans largest karst cave in tied-up rowboats. A small contribution to the guy pulling grants us an extra round. We only have time for a glance at the popular picknick spot of Ganjnameh, Xerxes' two-thousand year-old rocky thanks to his god and his father for being such a good king. Visiting the piteous relics of Irans oldest town does not fit into the packed day anymore.
Me, I cannot sleep in a running car. Others can. But if the driver is the one in need of a nap things get a little unpleasant. But first things first.
Estimations of the trip duration varied between three and six hours, the traffic on the way back would be horrific the warners went. The tour leaders did not step back, though: to see the sea was the target. Along the raging rivers running into and out of the Amir Kasir Reservoir we whizzed up and down the serpentine roads of the Alborz, shocked by daringly overtaking Peykans, and finally stood on a red-hot pebble beach. Without delay we jumped into the salty water of the world's largest lake. But our benevolent drivers had no mercy but ushering us into the cabins of the Namak Abrooch Cable Car, and who would have wanted to miss that view and to breathe that cool forestal air?!
How time flies when you are having fun! The substitute drivers now took over the wheel under sceptic yet tired looks, three low-powered limousines then queued in the long line of late leavers. Three lanes became two, then one and all of a sudden the thick traffic tipped over into mad rush. Scared central-european eyes now watched merciless corner cutters and serpentine lunatics, after hours and hours only they were ready to believe that going the contrary direction would be forbidden by law. After twelve hours driving we couldn't care less for the abundant variety of fruits and honey and olives on the wayside, getting home was the only desire. Knocked back a can of hop soup bedtime sweet and off I went.
Know one, know all, that is how it seemed to me when I had a second look at the pictures. Three stately homes we honored by a visit, Khan-e Tabatabei and Khan-e Ameriha were the latter two. Then the guys had enough and I had to give in. Windtowers and cool basements serve as non-electrical air conditioning. Several yards, dozens of staircases, hundreds of rooms and thousands of doors make the mansions a paradise for a hide and seek. We then went to find cooling in the Fin Garden and headed home after a stroll.
Wild run southwards. Two hours of drivers fighting for the lead of the string on the autobahn. No roadworthiness badges here but we were able to decipher them. Every single letter. Bombastic mansions behind nondescript walls in Kashan. Khan-e Borudjeri, house of an obviously quite successful handicraft's merchant, built in the nineteenth century. Enough material in town for more than one article. Stay tuned.
Cars and buildings don't shy away from sharp shots by photo cameras, they don't scream and shout, they don't turn away, look angry or simper, don't make unexpected moves (by themselves) and cock up the picture. Cars you don't have to ask for permission to take a photo or to publish it. It's the same with mountains, mountains are similar. Cars and builings are nice. And mountains.
Only two hundred years Tehran has been a capital and the Palace of Flowers was the first residence of the rulers here. Once integrated into the citadel the buildings now enclose a park, one of the shady oases to escape the thick traffic. The exhibitions there show old paintings, photographies from the nineteenth century and old mural painings. The extensive mosaics on the outer walls are a feast for the eyes as well.
You feel safe and salvaged when reputed and well-known things surround you. Maybe the shown vehicle is not one of the last models ever built, concerns regarding reliability are inappropriate, though. The tiny plate on the grill saying Superifa should be convincing, the fancy water gun on top as well. In the end, I have never heard any complaints whatsoever and if there were any, they have surely changed into nostalgic sighs.
Tehran's geography makes orientation a little easier: downhill southwards, uphill northwards. From threethousandninehundredsixtytwo meters Mount Tochal looks down on the city. Madmen and masochists can hike up while frying in the sun and suffer from visions, more smart people take the cable car, through the scratched windows one has a superb view over smoggy Tehran and towards the mountains. One change of cars and after a scheduled thirtythree minutes ride one is at station number seven. From there it takes summery fourty minutes reaching the summit on a natural gravel path. Even the thin high-altitude air seems to suffer from smog, sight is poor but the view is magnificient anyway and definetly worth the effort. To drink enough and protect from the sun is highly recommended. When in winter the skiers raid these mountains all hell is let loose.
The area south of Tehran is at about twelvehundred meters above sea level, at daytime it might be aound thirty degrees but not very humid, that makes sweating much more pleasant. Steppes all around, mountains in the haze, probably the Alborz. That is to be found out. This morning we spotted the first knocked-over truck but our drivers seem to be no kamikazis. Travelling in a Paykan means to travel in a relaxed way. Every day.
First they were sent out into the world naked and alone, in twothousandandtwo they re-united by the Brandenburg Gate and stared at each other quite staggered by the change of their appearance. Almost they wouldn't have recognized each other and started mangling their neighbor but early enuff each fella remembered its mission: Hands up! And smile. Then, all of a sudden they had to sidestep a giant baseplate and fled scared around the world. In twothousandandsix they finally dared to come back to Berlin forming a circle again at another place to drone together into the Berlin Air.
What you cannot see doesn't happen, that's the way people tend to think but now I call a real sharp eye extension my own which is able to capture paparazzo-like almost every move those little fellas make when normally nobody can see. Then you realize that there is something going on.
Here lies the ashes of Hans Fallada (a renowned German writer) and if he wouldn't have turned to dust he could see across the lake from here. All the lakes of the Feldberg Lake District are clear and deep, not too cold anymore, though, but a bath still is refreshing.
On the way to the perfect photo not only the quality of the camera counts, that would be far too easy. Therefore the frontpage sometimes should remain empty.
Howth sticks its tongue into the Irish Sea, and this time I really don't have an idea what its name would be. But right on it the Baily Lighthouse sits. You can get there by car or public bus or by walking up the slope from Howth with its well-placed mansions to Howth Summit. There you can buy a bottle of water in the common Spar supermarket or stop by at the only pub in sight. From the parking lot of the lookout point stony paths lead down to the lighthouse, people from all over the world struggle with the sun and the slope, access denied for the lighthouse though.
Dublin sticks its tongue into the Irish Sea, its name is Howth. No clou what travel guides say about this place since I came here pretty unprepared and bad-equipped, it was only a job for a few days, as usual. The village with the same name - Howth - has a marina and a fishing port, in the colored water even seals are having a swim. It's a good location for an evening stroll and only after ten it's getting dark.
When the pubs switch on that nasty light and doormen ask people to leave while tehy are in deep conversation with old or new friends or their beer glass, then the first night bus has left already. Now it's time for a club, as long as you can prove convincingly being above twenty-one and suit the hardfaced doorman's idea of the pick of the day. Otherwise, no way Jose, but there are other places to go where the door policy is less strict. When those places close it's time to think about more fruitful activities anyway.
Weather changes faster than anyone can say Guinness. Brilliant sunshine in the morning and when the normal lad makes it out of bed clouds come creeping, later in the afternoon they tear open and in the evenings there is bright blue sky.And all this varies daily, hourly and minutely. I run around in a short sleeved shirt, it ain't cold, the Gulf Stream makes it possible.
The menu boasts of heavyweights you need a nap after enjoying it. Having one of these burgers yesterday I will choose Tandoori Chicken Skewers. And a Guinness with it. That fits. The weather is quite pleasant. In the morning I have to exit the highway at Coldwinters where the Christmas Shop awaits customers. Cul de sac does not seem to be gaelic.
After a gripping evening in front of a big screen in one of the summery beer gardens you need a sleeping pill to get down from the excitement. Bawling German flag swayers roam through the streets as if the cup was already won, seems they need some celebration practice.
Apart from the huge pill by the Reichstag we have the notes on Gendarme Market, the soccer shoes by the new central station, the books on Bebel Square and the relatively theoretical equation EeEqualsEmCeeSquared in the Pleasure Garden. Have you seen all those you know what ideas pop up in German brains!
Dear dear sun, come down here, leave the rain up there, we will praise you... so a german nursery rhyme goes and the little girl sang it without anyone understanding the words, only the ones involved knew and the sun as well since there came a day of bright sunshine squeezed between two rainy days left over from April. Sun sent so much light that we got careless and later glowed like embarrassed schoolgirls.
Dozens of dhows lie in the port of Sitra that evening and wait patiently for their fishermen to chug out to sea. They divert to all directions to take their share of the shrinking scaly wealth. The boat bodies nowadays are made of glassfiber plastics, by the way.
Stumbling through the waste land of Juffair, my growing quarter of apartment buildings and hotels on compacted virgin soil, I witness the former artificial lagoon in the growing land being filled up with refuse and construction waste (can anybody read the sign?). A sweet-musty odor is in the dusty air. This piece of land also will be crammed with houses in a few months. Sealed and innocent it will not show any evidence of its development.
In a distant future marine archeologists may incidently find leavings of an allegedly highly developed civilisation at skin-deep excavations and have to re-write history again. The plastic bag era they may name it, perished with the second biblical Flood deluging the island.
The bass is bumping over Manama - Paul van Dyk is in town! The famous German DJ found his way to the tiny island of Bahrain! At Marina Club by the bay a small squared dance floor was erected catering arab youth from near and far listening to hypnotizing beats. Yes, even I get caught and keep on dancing and dancing. When it is two in the morning normally all events finish but we get a little extra before the star leaves for VIP party in Ritz-Carlton Hotel. C'ya Paul!
Well, it is not really his cart he is guarding. The shaggy fella is waiting to be dragged to the playground by the beach to carry around courageous kids in circles. Shooting pictures is included. Just like his animal companions in misfortune, the lethargic horse and the worn-out pony, it bears this life in a stoic manner. An overpowering odor surrounds it like a veil of haze, flowery as a fuming cowshed.
Confess now! How many, when, why! All, I want to know all! How many did you tantalize? Hundreds? Thousands? Where did you stick your beak? Did you wash it after that? What did you do with the haul? Sell at wholesale? Who are your accomplices? Where is your hiding place? When the next raid is planned? What is all this for? - No word. For the protocol: The accused is obdurate and not cooperating. No confession was made. Let's go for third degree!
According to saudi-arabian standards the girls sit almost barenaked at the mole at Marina Club. Around them some westerners in swimwear, germans, britons. Out in the bay bored youngsters race by on their jet bikes, others star in stunts with obstinate racing boats. The fat yachts don't move away from the jetty today. And as soon as we got used to the off-day it is already over.
How exciting! The need for speed doesn't let go after fifteen minutes on the racing track. Schuuumi, we're coming! A noisy cackling fills the air, everybody has to point out his/her outstanding performance, bright eyes, persistently grinning faces all around. The pulse won't come down. Let's go for another run, but on two engine karts now! At my first daring overtaking manoeuvre centrifugal force wins against road adhesion and I am pushed into the tyre barrier. I go on though. Seems I need a little more practice in handling the concentrated power of 11 horsepowers. Maybe next friday?
I congratulate myself today on the first anniversary of my homepage, of my humble and brave website, I am able to speak and turn inside out on after centuries of silence and being so so introvert! Who would have expected I have got something to say? I wish that those trivial stories won't run out and that I can keep distance to any bullshitting at the same time. Congratulation letters from the dear albeit quiet readers to the known address.
Let's clink glasses with breast milk only, the little one has in no way come of full age. Cheers!
One friday afternoon I just walked around. The car I had parked near the 'Dolphin Park' (whatever is done there to the poor dolphins I don't want to know) and went by the corniche, passing the National Museum and the palm grove (again I could not resist taking photos of the blossoms) and turned towards Muharraq island by outstripping the tar-crusted shore and crossing the bridge. On the other side I went zig zagging to find back to the beach opposite the capital's skyline, home to the fishermen. Already the sun was about to dig into the milky sky just above horizon. I headed back towards the western bridge realizing that there wouldn't be a sundown, the planet just disappeared in a glistening swamp and it went cold. I quickened the pace and forgot to bring a joke to spice up the story.
Tourism booster month in Bahrain! The fireworks were planned to amaze the billions of formula one gatherers but - as we all remember - it was too windy at that time. And such fireworks can't just be thrown away, too expensive ha!
Impishly the head cocked before entering the happy hunting ground, the moment frozen in time as if wanting to say 'yep, was a good one, life down here', or else. The dragonfly looks reconciled with the hardships that were imposed on it. Arms and legs nonchalanty folded beneath the head it is resting to prepare for a new life beyond the boundaries of life and death. The fly seems to believe in something, does it believe in God? In its dragonfly God to send it back in an cocoon, starting all over again, here on this meager desert island? Ishallah! God willing.
Today was the day that I lacked the power to dig for new sights to see. Bahrain's main island doesn't boast of many beaches. One of the few belongs to the Yacht Club. It lies on the east coast about 15 minutes away from town (turn left at the big oil tanks). You pay a dinar to access the club and the beach. Here you can simply hang around having a fresh lemon soda or learn to sail and dive. At the moment I am fine with only dozing.
It's low tide, and when it's low tide then it's not high tide. Not here at least. Somewhere else maybe? Where has the water gone? Is this process like a controlled wave going around the world or how does that work? Does the world still run smoothly then? Allegedly the moon is involved but who supervises when the moon shines on the other side of the globe? Who takes care then that nothing is spilled or runs too dry? How about the fishes? Are they flushed around the world? We know so little about that subject.
The Shriek, everybody's waiting for that shriek! Come and see Bahrain, visa for free granted! Tennishals is inclusive! See Schumi in the Seef Mall, when he crashes with Jacko, whose nose is that lieing on the floor? Autograph signature from Button! Book the Ritz-Carlton-suite beside Heidfeld, Alonso or Barrichello, Discount, Sir! Smell the rubber and the fuel filling the desert air! Come to Manama from 10 to 12 March 2006! Have the time of your life!
Afternoon trip to the south, choppy sandstorm. In the middle of the desert where Bahrainis love to spend their quality time in winter camping - back to the roots - a holey fishing boat stands. The Bahraini flag is proudly fluttering in the wind, as on every tent. Did the wind also carry the boat here or was it the latest storm surge?
Legendary short trip destination that is. Where does the lonely tree in the middle of the dusty desert take its water from? That is the miracle recourceful or desperate tourist officers refer to when trying to lure us there. Before extensive shipbuilding and changing climate made the island a salty fallow hunting was a gainful pastime in Dilmun, as the land's name used to be. Why this one tree stands there solely I would call the real miracle. Was it too twisted to end as a ship body?
His father already used to sit here on fridays. In the mountains of Pakistan, where he had grown up, he had dreamed of the C. So he left to find it. He ended up in Manama, here everybody seemed to live for the C, although sometimes it was even hard just to B. So he founded a family and stayed. On every friday he came to that place. He stared out and went brooding. Why men yearn for the C? Was it worth the deprivation? He didn't find an answer. At the time when his son was old enough he joined him. Then they sat here together staring and brooding every friday, for years, for decades. And the day came when the son sat here alone. He stared out till dark. A lonely teardrop went down his chin. Was the C worth all that? Why don't we go for a P?
At pleasant temperatures we go on a short trip to where wooden dhows idle away on the shore beside lobster traps of all size. Here, beside some crashed cars, also a few unfinished dhows stand just like I already saw them about two years ago. Obviously these large boats are little in demand now that the fishermen use light motorboats and trading has shifted to other forms of transportation, part of the globalization, I guess.
Diffuse light, the sunball stands out against the cheese cover of sand we are trapped in. Its heat seems to have the warming effect of the moonlight. Early it goes down and now the streetlights try to come through this stone fog, bravely the light waves eat through the stiff air matting the sky.
Half an hour more and the whole page is full of these acrobatic word constructions!
Missed! The invitation to the Grand Mosque for non-muslims was valid for two holidays last week only, so I can still just see it from outside. Just beside it, to the sea, the Sheik Isa National Library is under construction.
The first photo, a sight of growing Bahrain underneath my bedroom window, above the flattened moon.
Somewhere here I stumbled across construction waste some two years ago, now houses have grown on top, not grass... And the island goes on growing and growing, land is taken from the sea everywhere. That is ok, as long as the Saudi-Arabian territory is not reached...
Bravely the christmas tree still stands there in the drafty passage between the Gedächtniskirche ruins and the bell tower. It pours its cosy light on the red-nosed passers-by from all over the world. The snow reduced to a thick layer of pack-ice that can be removed only by blasting. Old footprints in the grey crust look like ancient remainders in a glacier. Indestructible heaps of solidly baked ice line the streets. The sun is weak and leaving early. Too early.
…go here to have a look into the clear bright past.